Despite progress by a growing number of countries towards striking the balance between growth and respect for the planet, more concrete, holistic and law-based approaches would be needed for the drive to true sustainable development, the Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs told the General Assembly on April 21.
Under-Secretary-General Wu Hongbo said that in order to realize that vision, all stakeholders must actively seek fair, balanced and sustainable ways to meet the economic, social and environmental needs of both the present and future generations.
He was delivering a statement, on behalf of the Secretary-General, to the Assembly’s Interactive Dialogue on Harmony with Nature to commemorate International Mother Earth Day, April 22. The event focused on earth jurisprudence and the need to scale up national efforts to protect the planet and its people.
Wu said that approach to sustainable development was rooted in a philosophy of law and human governance by which the well-being of each member of the human community depended on the health of the planet as a whole. While failure to understand that philosophy had led humanity to a self-interest-driven relationship with earth, more and more countries were taking action to correct the situation, he noted.
Agreeing, Marc Pecsteen de Buytswerve (Belgium), Vice-President of the General Assembly, underlined the key importance of changing human behaviour. That view was central to ending the ongoing destruction of biological diversity, realizing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and fulfilling commitments under the Paris Agreement on climate change, he said in a statement on behalf of the Assembly President, explaining that earth jurisprudence recognized the deep interconnection between people and the planet. At the core of law and economics lay the notion that people lived on a planet full of resources to be exploited at will for the benefit of the human species, but an earth-centred view shifted the focus towards forging a new relationship in which people would live in harmony with nature, he said.
Fernando Huanacuni Mamani, Bolivia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, said the production and consumption patterns that had led to climate change and financial crisis demonstrated the limits of economic and cultural development. Emphasizing the need to consider alternative paradigms for dealing with the world’s deep social inequalities, he said indigenous peoples knew the right path to take concerning Mother Earth. Bearing in mind that humanity could simply not continue to exist without respecting the planet, he said, it was now vital to adopt a universal declaration on the rights of Mother Earth, with the United Nations playing a critical role in harmonizing the international community’s efforts.
Concurring, Helena Yánez Loza (Ecuador) said that ensuring the sustainable use of natural resources was the key to both promoting growth and eradicating poverty. Speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, she emphasized the critical need to enhance support for developing countries, including by transferring knowledge, building capacity and establishing a non-discriminatory market system. Calling for holistic approaches to sustainable development, she said they would restore the health of ecosystems and ensure prosperity in harmony with nature.
Delegates also participated in two interactive panel discussions on earth jurisprudence and the 2030 Agenda, as well as the rights of nature, ecological economics, education, ethics, philosophy, holistic science and the media. The morning panel discussed the forging of a thriving relationship between human activity and the earth, and the afternoon discussion focused on developing countries.